OAKLAND – With Sean Doolittle heading back to the disabled list Saturday, the A’s will have to make do without an All-Star reliever that they were anticipating would bolster their bullpen.
Manager Bob Melvin said he sympathized with Doolittle, who felt soreness in the back of his shoulder after throwing an inning Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers. Doolittle tried playing catch Friday, but he felt a sharp pain and had to stop. An MRI taken Saturday morning showed inflammation in the subscapularis muscle and the shoulder capsule.
That’s a different area than the rotator cuff, which was the problem spot for the injury that sidelined him for spring training and nearly all of the first two months of the regular season.
“It seemed like we were really cautious,” Melvin said before Saturday’s game against the Yankees. “(The original injury happened) in January, and you go through a significant period of time with just strengthening, so you can come back and not have to worry about that. And it ended up being a different issue, so it is particularly frustrating.”
Doolittle said the key right now is to let the inflammation die down. He’ll have to pass a host of strength tests administered by the A’s training staff before he can start throwing again. Right now, there’s no timetable for his return.
“There were never any red flags or warning signs that something wasn't right,” Doolittle said. “In that respect, it's a little frustrating. Getting an MRI today, at least we know it was something different, and the previous injury that I had before looks pretty good. It's healing. It was unaffected by this. I’ve just got to make sure to take some more time and do it right. I guess this was my body's way of telling me I wasn't quite ready.”
With Doolittle sidelined again, fellow lefty Eric O’Flaherty would appear to become a big factor for the bullpen. O’Flaherty, on the DL with his own shoulder issue, is scheduled to pitch in relief for Single-A Stockton on Saturday night. If all goes well, Melvin has said O’Flaherty could be activated and join the 25-man roster.
O’Flaherty has struggled this season while in Oakland’s bullpen, posting an 11.57 ERA in eight appearances. But his return would give Melvin a second left-handed option in the ‘pen to go with Fernando Abad, who has had trouble retiring lefty hitters for most of the season.